The Country Music Association has launched two new membership tiers in an effort to attract a younger and broader membership body.
In addition to the already-established professional membership tier, the CMA is introducing an industry membership tier for current and prospective music industry professionals who do not work fulltime in country music, such as many touring personnel. It is also adding a student membership tier for high school and college students.
The COVID-19 pandemic became a catalyst for strategic planning initiatives to serve the existing 6,300-person membership, as well as extend to the next generation of the music industry.
"We asked ourselves, 'How are we meeting the needs of our industry today as well as our industry tomorrow?'" CMA CEO Sarah Trahern tells Billboard via email. "Of course, we always want to ensure the integrity of the CMA Awards process, but we also want to provide a larger platform for dialogue and issues important to the music business as a whole. Our experience during the pandemic certainly helped us realize that a lot of people in our larger music community didn't qualify for CMA membership, even if they were doing significant work in the country music space."
The changes allow for "an easier pipeline for young people to enter our business, an opportunity to work with music industry personnel who may not work in country music 24/7, and an open door for country music professionals at large organizations who might not have had the chance to engage closely with CMA based on our membership criteria and how it was closely connected to awards voting," she continues.
The student tier is free to high school and college students, age 16 or older, who are interested in working in the music industry. Student members will receive access to internships and apprenticeships, as well as access to programming from CMA's collegiate professional development program, CMA EDU.
Dues for the industry tier are $25 annually and includes access to a number of membership benefits, including professional development opportunities, as well as healthcare and mental health resources.
These two new tiers will be added to the existing professional tier, which costs $100 annually and is available to full-time professionals whose work is primarily focused within the country music industry in one of 16 categories including consumption (satellite, digital streaming, radio), musician, personal manager, producer/engineer/studio, talent agent, and publisher/PRO. Professional tier members can access CMA research, professional development opportunities, mentoring, healthcare guidance, CMA's member directory and opportunities to purchase event tickets. Only professional tier members are considered to join the voting body provided they meet the criteria.
"This new structure gives us the ability to welcome a younger generation in," Trahern says. "I'm a perfect example. Years ago when I was at TNN, I wasn't able to become a CMA member because of limitations for larger companies, even though my job was 100% in country music. And all of that makes sense, because CMA membership was previously tied to voting rights, and the integrity of the CMA Awards is extremely important. It took more than five years until someone left the company that I was able to become a CMA member. Now, with this new structure, young people can become members and take advantage of networking opportunities, or healthcare resources. They can attend our events and further become a vibrant and vital part of the CMA community."
Along with the new membership tiers, a revamped CMA membership website will launch March 20, offering improved website navigation and professional and personal development resources.
"We will continue to evolve and we have to be able to be agile to the needs of our members," Tiffany Kerns, the organization's senior vp, Industry Relations and Philanthropy, tells Billboard. "The changes allow us to be more inclusive and allow us to broaden our reach. We want to make sure we are hearing their needs loud and clear."
The new membership tiers are among the latest initiatives from the CMA, which earlier this year launched a diversity and inclusion fellowship, and last year debuted the Women's Leadership Academy.